Thursday’s game in Sacramento between the Kings and the visiting Atlanta Hawks was delayed, and then took place in front of a much smaller than usual crowd, after demonstrators blocked entrances to Golden 1 Center to protest a police shooting Sunday of an unarmed black man. After the game ended, Kings owner Vivek Ranadive came onto the floor to address the arena, pledging that his franchise would strive to “bring everybody together to make the world a better place.”
The 60-year-old Ranadive, an Indian-American businessman who bought a controlling interest in the team in 2013, was flanked by players, coaches and executives. Describing the shooting as “a horrific, horrific tragedy in our community,” he said, “Most of all I wanted to express our deepest sympathies to the family” of the victim, Stephon Clark.
Sacramento police said that officers thought Clark had pointed a gun at them, and they reportedly fired 20 shots at him, after which he died of his wounds. Video released Wednesday showed police chasing a man suspected of breaking into cars through a Sacramento neighborhood.
Clark, 22, was shot in his grandmother’s backyard, and only a cellphone was discovered at the scene. Outraged protesters demanded greater accountability for the police, and hundreds of them blocked commuters Thursday on a freeway, then moved to the Kings’ arena, where they locked arms at the entrances.
Only a few hundred fans were able to enter the arena before police turned the rest away. The game was played before an eerily empty venue, with fans holding tickets to upper-level seats being led closer to the court.
The Kings said that fans who could not use their tickets would be eligible for full refunds. In his remarks after the game, a 105-90 Sacramento win, Ranadive said that his Kings “recognize your people’s ability to protest peacefully, and we respect that.”
“We here at the Kings recognize that we have a big platform,” the owner said. “It’s a privilege, but it’s also a responsibility. It’s a responsibility that we take very seriously, and we stand here before you — old, young, black, white, brown — and we are all united in our commitment.”
Drawing applause from those in the arena, Ranadive continued by saying, “We recognize that it’s not just business as usual, and we are going to work really hard to bring everybody together to make the world a better place, starting with our own community, and we’re going to work really hard to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.
“Thanks you all for your patience, and have a good night.”
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